Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, solo musical entrepreneur, Sithu Aye, devoted some time prior to releasing his 8th studio double-record, “Set Course For Andromeda”, which makes impressive new strides in the progressive metal world, and even features a number of world-renowned artists’ solos and 76 minutes of captivating instrumental music. Here’s what he has to say about his artistic ventures, past, present, and future:
You’ve released a handful of singles over the past couple of weeks leading up to the release of “Set Course For Andromeda.” How has the reception been so far?
The reception has been absolutely incredible so far. The feedback I’ve gotten on the new songs has been amazing and this has been my most successful album launch to date – even though the album isn’t even out yet!
You have an all-star line up of features on the album including the likes of Plini, Aaron Marshall, Mark Holcomb, David Maxim Micic, and more. How did you link up with all of these great musicians and what was the experience like working with all of them?
The great thing about most of the musicians that played on the new album is that I’ve met and hung out with most of them, except for David and Mark (and I’ll hopefully be hanging with David plenty this summer, and hopefully get to speak to Mark if Periphery come around and tour the UK again). There’s probably a bit of personal bias too since I’ve jammed with Plini and The Helix Nebula guys as well.
In terms of linking up, I feel there’s probably a mutual respect among all of us and the music that we do. We all want to see each other succeed and do well, and guest solos helps for both the person doing the album and the guest. In terms of the process, I just kind of send them a Facebook message or an email asking if they have time and are interested, and I always make sure to have the track ready for them. Everybody’s been great to work with on the album, and Aaron went as far as to track his solo while in his tour bus, not that you can tell with the quality of his playing.
Each one of the guests that feature on the new album are people and musicians who I immensely respect, and it’s really cool to have them on board to hopefully make this new album a success!
Where did you get the concept idea for “Set Course for Andromeda?”
It was pretty innocuous to begin with, I had named the title track ‘Set Course for Andromeda!!!’ without really any plans to expand on that, and before I knew it I had thought up this crazy idea of hapless space cadets very badly piloting a crappy spaceship towards Andromeda. I have an overactive imagination probably, but thankfully (or not thankfully, depending on your views towards Senpai EP!) I have an outlet for that through my music.
How much writing, editing, and forethought goes into composing a 76-minute double-album? What was the process like? We can only imagine how long you spent on this new release.
I kind of feel like I didn’t spend that much longer on this album than I did with something like Invent the Universe. The main issue I had was because of work I’d find myself away from home a lot and living out of hotels, which meant I wasn’t able to write or record. It really put a damper on any momentum and progress I had. Luckily, I was able to finish on one of these projects at the beginning of the year early and I set aside some time just to really nail the new album.
So songs like Set Course for Andromeda!!! and Constants and Variables were written last year, but the bulk of the album was actually written and recorded in 4 weeks between March and April of this year. My writing process hasn’t really changed either, and it turned out to be a very spontaneous and enjoyable experience. I had spent some time before properly tracking the album to improve my mix as well, so I had everything I needed to focus on the writing.
So the second album is one 29 minute song broken up into 6 parts. How did that idea come about and did you face any challenges along the way?
I think the influence for the long track, and for the format of the album in general, probably came mainly from albums like Six Degree of Inner Turbulence by Dream Theater, where you have two very distinct disks that still retain the style of the artist. In terms of The Andromedan, I had this idea in my had of a journey and putting that to music.
One of my good friends Jack pointed out that what I was doing could easily be related to the Monomyth by Joseph Campbell, who surmised that the hero’s journey could be broken up into several phases and steps, and that this structure was common across all hero and journey based mythology.
Given some of the other influences that I’ll take about later, it made total sense to base the Andromedan around a hero’s journey narrative, and it meant that the music could really change with each step of the journey.
What was the recording process like for “Set Course For Andromeda?” Has this process changed at all compared to your previous releases?
The recording process hasn’t changed hugely – I still write, record and mix as I go along. I think the main difference has been the gear I’m using as I’ve recently switched to using an Axe-FX II and Mayones guitars. The other challenge was like I mentioned early, trying to find time around work to actually sit down and record!
What are your influences both musical and non-music wise? Surely an album this diverse and technicality has a wide range of influence.
I mentioned Dream Theater before, and they definitely were a big influence with how I structured the album, and the amount of long songs too. Musically, my influences on the album range from bands like Meshuggah, Periphery, TesseracT and Monuments through to artists like Pat Metheny, Snarky Puppy, Hiromi Uehara and Joe Hisaishi.
Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli was probably a huge influence on The Andromeda, which ties in with the Joe Hisaishi influence. If I could make music that evoked just a fraction of the emotion that a Studio Ghibli film does, then I’ve done something right!
I know you have a Japanese tour coming up soon. Our friends in the States would love a visit. Do you have any other tour plans for 2016 or 2017?
Can’t say too much, but I have a couple of UK based shows in the summer. I would definitely want to tour the US though, seeing Intervals and Plini just finish their epic tour over there. It’s something I’ll be working towards with my new found time!
People often put artists like yourself, along with Polyphia, Widek, and Plini in the “djent” category. How do you feel about that term, now that it’s essentially and arguably become a genre, a subculture, even?
I sort of half-jokingly say that djent has become a meme. It’s a meme in the sense that people will say ‘does it djent’ about anything, and I’ve made a joke about the whole 000-00-00-000-00-000 aspect of djent in the Senpai EP. But it’s also a meme in the Richard Dawkin’s definition, in that it’s spread into the collective consciousness of progressive, tech and metal fans, even be it through joke videos on YouTube.
I don’t mind being characterised as djent, as you could say using various definitions of the word that my music has elements of it in it. And I can’t really have a negative view of something that builds a sense of community over something that essentially started as onomatopoeia. As long as you guys don’t mind me shitposting about it!
You recently quit your job and decided to play music full time. How did that decision come about and was it an easy one to make?
I mentioned before that I just wasn’t getting enough time due to work, and at the age of 25, I kind of felt like if I didn’t go and dedicate myself to music now, I never would. I guess my musical ambitions weren’t really backed up by the time I had available and it was becoming more financially viable, so the choice kind of made itself in a way. I’m also incredibly lucky to have the support of my friends and family through all of this.
What are your future goals as an artist now that you’re a full time musician?
I just want to keep pushing myself as an artist and as a musician, and keep producing music that I can be proud of. The next big milestone would be a US tour for sure.
What are your favorite tracks to play from “Set Course For Andromeda?” What were the most fun or exciting to compose and why?
Spiral was a lot of fun to do just because it’s so different from anything else I’ve done before. It also a different take on the guest solo because Plini and I were trading licks as opposed to just having him feature and Luke absolutely killed it on piano.
I’ll be playing some of these new songs live and Transient Transistors is definitely a favourite one to do live!
You’re releasing your album on May 4th. Is the force with you? Haha.
My force power is shitposting.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I just hope that everybody enjoys the new album and hopefully I’ll be playing in a venue near you soon! And since I’m a full time musician/shitposter, you will be seeing and hearing a lot more from me hopefully!
Stream Sithu Aye‘s brand new double-album, Set Course for Andromeda, early, and look for it on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and more starting May 4th!
Follow him here: